Lay down to sleep in one city and wake up fully rested in another, having been gently rocked through the night. Night train journeys offer comfortable, hassle-free adventures, with accommodations, transport, and sometimes even meals — not to mention mesmerising views — included in one price. By Olly Beckett
From the USA to Europe to Asia, here are eight of the best night train journeys to take around the world.
Milan to Palermo
This nearly 21-hour journey on Intercity Notte traces Italy’s west coast before crossing the Strait of Messina. Comfortable air-conditioned bunk rooms offer a good value (prices for a bed start around USD 40 or INR 3,190), and you’ll likely find yourself making friends with fellow passengers. During the trip, you’ll fly along viaducts above towns and villages outside Genoa, and zoom past the Tyrrhenian Sea just meters away, but the best part is perhaps the ferry crossing, where carriages get separated and shunted on before they cruise across to Sicily.
Chicago to Seattle
As you glide through Chicago’s skyscrapers, it may seem hard to believe that, from this same window, you’ll be gazing upon vast plains, high mountain valleys, and glacial lakes, too. But this is what awaits lucky passengers on board Amtrak’s Empire Builder service to Seattle. Guests can simply sit back and watch those ever-changing views through the enormous observation car windows or while dining on excellent food at linen-covered tables.
Bariloche to San Antonio Oeste
Paul Theroux made the Old Patagonian Express famous and, even though a night train no longer exists on that particular route, it’s still possible to sleep in cosy cabins while riding the rails through this vast Argentinian landscape thanks to the weekly Tren Patagonico. Bariloche is where you’ll begin or end your journey — in the foothills of the Andes and beside ski slopes and picture-perfect Nahuel Huapi Lake. From those glacial waters to the shores of the Atlantic, the Tren Patagonico night train carries passengers in two-bed cabins and pulls along a dining carriage that serves excellent Argentinian cuisine. Tip: Disembark at San Antonio Oeste, from where you can hit the beach at Las Grutas or take the bus to the whale-watching delights of Peninsula Valdes.
Cairo to Luxor
Although this route can be a bit bumpy, it offers an epic trip from a station close to the pyramids of Giza to Luxor’s grand temples. Wobbling through Cairo’s dusky streets, the train follows the Nile during the night and arrives in Luxor just after 6 am. Stay on for a few more hours and you’ll reach Aswan, home to ancient tombs, temples, and the famous High Dam. Snag a bed by booking with Watania; other services provide seats only.
Delhi to Jaisalmer
There are more than 42,000 miles (67,592 km) of railway track in India, and a huge selection of night trains. On this journey, an Indian Railways train whisks you from Delhi’s urban sprawl to the Rajasthani city of Jaisalmer, located in the Thar Desert, with buildings as golden as the surrounding sand. Treat yourself to a 1AC or 2AC compartment (book in advance), where you’ll find fresh linens and no more than four bunks. And when you peel off the foil from your freshly made meal, you’ll realise the food on board is as good as many meals you’ll find outside. Rolling out of Delhi on the Shalimar Express, the city and its suburbs fly by for more than an hour. Throughout the day, you’ll pass cities that deserve more of your time on the way back — not least Jaipur and Jodhpur — before arriving at your final destination.
Vienna to Zurich
Operated by Austria’s exemplary ÖBB Nightjet, this train offers everything from seats to deluxe cabins with showers (cost for the latter starts at just USD 95 or INR 7,577 per person). Take this ride during the long evenings and early mornings of summer, and you’ll see Vienna’s grand streets, waking as you traverse mountains, pass through Liechtenstein, and cross the Rhine River. Look out the right-hand side as the train glides along Lake Zurich before arriving at the picturesque Swiss city or Zurich.
Prague to Split
This is a journey of contrasts. Beginning in Prague’s central station just a short walk from Wenceslas Square, RegioJet‘s popular yellow train zips through the Czech countryside, reaching Bratislava just before bedtime. Early the next morning, you’ll cross into Croatia, where the train descends toward the sublime Adriatic coastline. Private compartments can be reserved, and you’ll be deposited right where ferries depart for dreamy Croatian islands.
Los Angeles to Seattle
Big cities, deserts, ocean, pine forests, lakes, and mountains — this journey has it all scrolling by your comfy cabin’s window. Amtrak’s Coast Starlight route lets passengers tick off terrific spots in California, Oregon, and Washington. You’ll fall asleep alongside the Pacific and wake up in the mountains, fully rested before a day of touring by train. In the dining car, expect classic American fare, which is included in the price of your roomette. Tip: Although the seats in the observation cars are often occupied, there’s usually an opportunity to grab a place when people go for lunch and dinner.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com
Main and Feature Image Credit: Harald Eisenberger/Courtesy of ÖBB